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Physical Activity Outdoors & Optimizing Training/Performance During Sporting Activities in the Heat


Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and leads to numerous physical and mental health benefits, such as improved heart health, stronger bones and muscles, prevention and management of diseases (such as diabetes), and improved psychological function.


While the summer heat is generally welcome in Canada after a long winter, we have seen record breaking temperatures over the last month. When temperatures climb, strenuous physical activity (such as exercising or working or outdoors) can cause mild to very severe heat-illnesses that can lead to hospitalization.

​Possible heat related illness symptoms:

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Headache

  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat

  • Extreme thirst

As we savour Canada’s Olympic wins of this year and the remaining months of summer, here are some things to watch out for to stay safe while doing physical activity outdoors or optimizing training and performance during sporting activities in the heat:

  1. Be aware of your own risk factors and modify your physical activity to suit your needs – don’t overdo it.

  2. Adapt your body to physical exertion in the heat over the span of 1 to 2 weeks. Particularly, athletes should aim to lower physiological strain by first acclimatizing to the environmental conditions before a competition.

  3. Stay hydrated – drink water. This is important both before and after outdoor sessions, training and competitions in order to adequately combat exercise-heat stress.

  4. Cooling methods can be external or internal - this includes iced towels, water immersion or ingestion of cold fluids or ice slurry

  5. Schedule outdoor work or exercise for the coolest parts of the day. Encourage athletic event organizations to apply appropriate re-scheduling and cooling and medical protocols to protect athlete health.


References

Racinais S, Alonso JM, Coutts AJ, et al. Consensus recommendations on training and competing in the heat. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(18):1164-1173. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-094915

Summer Safety-Beat the Heat! Government of Canada. July 17, 2020. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/maple-leaf/defence/2020/07/summer-safety-beat-heat.html#shr-pg0

Weather and recreational safety. Ontario Medical Association https://www.oma.org/health-well-being/your-health-safety/weather-recreational-safety/

Racinais S, Alonso JM, Coutts AJ, et al. Consensus recommendations on training and competing in the heat. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(18):1164-1173. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-094915

Beat the Heat. HealthLinkBC. July 29, 2021. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-feature/beat-the-heat

The above content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately